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USFL Week 3 Power Rankings, DFS and Gambling Preview

Birmingham, AL, USA; Birmingham Stallions linebacker Lorenzo Burns (22) and his teammates celebrate his interception against the Houston Gamblers during the fist half at Protective Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Week 2 of the USFL was objectively great. Some key highlights:

  • Friday night’s low-scoring matchup between the Michigan Panthers and New Jersey Generals was largely boring, but the fourth quarter at least gave us a hilariously egregious flop in addition to a 4th-and-20 conversion by Shea Patterson on the Panthers’ ill-fated final drive.
  • The Pittsburgh Maulers and Philadelphia Stars combined to score 34 points in the second quarter of their Week 2 matchup. 34 points! In 15 minutes! This league!
  • The Stars wound up not only winning but, more importantly, covering thanks to cashing in on the USFL’s first three-point conversion. As always: good teams win, great teams cover.
  • The Saturday nightcap between the Birmingham Stallions and Houston Gamblers produced a high-scoring, back-and-forth affair, including one of the greatest displays of taunting in the 21st century.
  • USFL kickers complained enough about issues with the Week 1 footballs that the league granted their wish and provided kicker-only balls for Week 2. The result? Four missed extra points.

Check out my Week 2 USFL review for full notes on every touchdown scored, offensive and defensive players of the game, key fantasy football workload metrics and overall thoughts. More USFL goodness can be found weekly on The PFF Fantasy Football Podcast.

Three key USFL takeaways after three weeks of action

This is mostly a run-heavy league

Some USFL teams seem fully aware that the year is 2022, while others are partying like it’s 2002 on offense. The league’s neutral situation pass-play rates are as follows:

  1. Philadelphia Stars (73.1%)
  2. Birmingham Stallions (59.3%)
  3. Pittsburgh Maulers (55%)
  4. Houston Gamblers (54.7%)
  5. Tampa Bay Bandits (54.7%)
  6. New Orleans Breakers (52.3%)
  7. Michigan Panthers (50.4%)
  8. New Jersey Generals (45.4%)

The USFL isn’t as efficient as the NFL; it’s not like teams have to throw the ball every play to win football games: With that said, Stars head coach Bart Andrus is truly a gift from the heavens as far as over bettors and fantasy footballers are concerned.

There’s a clear frontrunner for the USFL’s most-NFL ready player

New Orleans Breakers wide receiver Jonathan Adams made not one, not two, but three rather absurd catches Sunday. It was a truly amazing performance. The Arkansas State product is just 23 years old and possesses a solid enough combination of size (6-foot-2, 210-pounds) and speed (4.59-second 40-yard dash) to complement his obvious ball skills.

Protecting the quarterback is not a given

There has been a stark contrast in pass-protection ability through two weeks. Four teams have performed admirably at keeping their quarterbacks upright for the most part, but the rest of the league doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt at this point:

  1. Pittsburgh Maulers (19.4% pressure rate)
  2. New Orleans Breakers (20.3%)
  3. Birmingham Stallions (21.4%)
  4. Philadelphia Stars (28.7%)
  5. Tampa Bay Bandits (34.7%)
  6. New Jersey Generals (39%)
  7. Michigan Panthers (39.1%)
  8. Houston Gamblers (46.6%)

Luckily, each of the Breakers (Kyle Sloter), Stallions (J’Mar Smith) and Stars (Bryan Scott) combine their solid pass protection with an actual full-time quarterback in a league that has platoons all over the place. Don’t be afraid to simply trust full-time signal-callers behind capable offensive lines ahead of Week 3 in fantasy land.

USFL Week 3 Power Rankings

1. New Orleans Breakers (2-0)

The Breakers boast a league-best plus-37 point differential; only the Stallions (+9) and Stars (+1) are also in the green. The Week 2 version of Kyle Sloter looked a lot like the USFL’s best quarterback despite him playing through a painful groin injury. This team will be tough to stop if PFF’s highest-graded defense keeps on keeping on.

2. Birmingham Stallions (2-0)

Back-to-back one-score wins could have the Stallions sticking with J’Mar Smith over Alex McGough even once the latter quarterback is healthy enough to return to action. Either way, Birmingham is capable of winning on any given day thanks to a pass rush that has pressured opposing quarterbacks on an astronomical 41 of 69 dropbacks (59.4%). No other defense has a pressure rate higher than even 33%.

3. Philadelphia Stars (1-1)

The USFL’s most pass-happy offense by a long shot looked awfully lethal in Week 2, but quarterback Bryan Scott's league-high eight turnover-worthy plays haven’t been ideal. Throw in PFF’s lowest-graded overall defense, and the Stars are a tier below the top two squads.

4. Tampa Bay Bandits (1-1)

The Bandits have scored a whopping three points in their last six quarters of action combined. Week 2 featured Jordan Ta’amu suddenly rotating with Brady White, although the backup was porous enough in limited action to feasibly not see too many more reps anytime soon. Tampa Bay will be at risk of plummeting down these ranks if Ta’amu and Todd Haley don’t get this offense figured out fast. 

5. New Jersey Generals (1-1)

The Generals' Week 2 victory over the Panthers hardly came in style, but both De’Andre Johnson and Luis Perez have flashed enough thus far to believe this offense might be capable of eventually sustaining something close to average production. Credit to the defense for allowing the third-fewest points through two weeks of action.

6. Houston Gamblers (1-1)

Clayton Thorson has averaged a brutal 4.7 yards per attempt on an even worse 47.8% completion rate through two weeks. PFF’s third-lowest graded offense and defense alike appropriately ranks third to last in these rankings.

7. Pittsburgh Maulers (0-2)

Credit to the Maulers for finally scoring an offensive touchdown, but their 30-23 loss to the Stars wasn't exactly a breath-taking performance. Josh Love is PFF's second-highest graded passer through two weeks, but giving up 47 points in eight quarters of football has ultimately been too much for the team to overcome.

8. Michigan Panthers (0-2)

Shea Patterson has traded two good quarters of football for six that have largely just been bad. The USFL’s second-most run-heavy offense grades out as PFF’s second-worst rushing offense. The defense deserves some credit for keeping the squad close in both losses, but Jeff Fisher is really going to have to work some magic to get this squad to .500 by the end of the season.  

PFF team grades in specific categories are listed below:

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